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E911 solutions used to be fairly straightforward for organizations needing to provide accurate location information for any outgoing 911 calls placed from behind their multi-line telephone systems. Today a myriad of factors must be taken into consideration including IP, SIP routing, remote workers, wireless and soft phones. When assembling an RFP for your organization’s E911 needs, all of these pieces should be addressed. Following is a list of top questions to include, along with an explanation of why the question is an important one:

  • Is equipment required to implement E911?
    Why this is important: In most cases E911 solutions that fully meet state mandates can be implemented with no costly equipment required on-site.
  • Can you route calls via SIP?
    Why this is important: SIP delivery of calls allows for multiple paths to the Voice Positioning Server (VPC).
  • How do we ensure that proper 911 information is delivered to the correct PSAP from our soft phones or remote Agents?
    Why this is important: Every time a soft phone user moves their phone, location information changes. You need to ensure that your E911 provider can provide an application that prompts users to update their location information every time they move their phone. The application should be able to recognize the phone has moved by the IP address to which it is connected.  You also want to ensure that the administrator of your Organization has the ability to shut down the soft phone if the location is not populated.  For remote Agents, the Organization needs to provision the location and phone number of the remote agent in a web-based GUI.  When the call is placed from an Agent’s home, the PBX needs to recognize that the call is not within the network and route it to the Voice Positioning Server where it will be routed to the appropriate PSAP or 911 Operator nearest to their home.  The call is routed based on the ANI presented to the VPC.
  • In a flattened and consolidated network environment, can you route calls from a core switch to anywhere in the United States? 
    Why this is important: You need to be able to route 911 calls from a core switch back to anywhere in the United States and Canada. Based on the ANI, the VPC can then deliver the call to the PSAP nearest to where the call originated.
  • Do we need an appliance to do discovery for our IP phones?
    Why this is important: In a lot of cases an Organization can assign an ELIN (phone number) to a network region or subnet.  If a user logs in or plugs into that subnet, the PBX will recognize the subnet they are located in and out pulse the ELIN for the area in which that person is residing. Many organizations can set up the ELIN’s for their network and no longer have to manage anything to do with their IP phones regarding E911. It also eliminates the need for another piece of equipment requiring maintenance. If the PBX network regions cannot be defined appropriately for emergency response locations, your E911 provider should recommend VM IP discovery software.
  • How do you track wireless phones?
    Why this is important: The current problem that wireless devices present for E911 is that of cell bleed, as a caller could be on a floor above or below the actual WAP. Wireless phones can be handled much like IP phones in that the Wireless Access Point (WAP) can be assigned an ELIN.
  • Who is in charge of error correction or routing issues?
    Why this is important: If you buy a server-based solution, it is the Customer’s responsibility to correct any errors or trouble-shoot with the Telco in the event of 911 database errors or routing issues. You should make sure that your E911 provider’s service includes the ongoing management of error reconciliation and assistance with routing issues.
  • Please describe how your organization will assist our Company in establishing required relationships with PS/ALI providers? 
    Why this is important: Across the nation, there are multiple 911 administrative departments at all of the individual ILEC’s and CLEC’s. You should ensure that your E911 provider has existing, longstanding relationships nationwide.
  • Please describe the impact to your solution, and action required by us, if we upgrade to a new PBX hardware/software version or release.
    Why this is important: In some cases, owners of a server-based E911 solution have to upgrade the E911 software when going to a new release on their switch, which is generally 30% or more of the original cost of the solution. Ask your E911 provider if they will charge you for any upgrades (or even replacements) you make to your PBX.